# 36425

MOFFAT, John (1819-1894)

James Miller, surgeon and theologian : stereoscopic portrait. Edinburgh, 1856-57.

$600.00 AUD

  • Ask a question

Stereoscopic albumen print photograph, each image 75 x 65 mm (arched-top format), on yellow card mount 83 x 173 mm, with blind stamp of ‘Edinburgh Stereographic Company’ (probably a publishing imprint of John Lennie); verso with facsimile signature of the sitter ‘Jas. Miller’, and with the original Scots-Australian owner’s name in pencil ‘McMillan’; the albumen prints are both crisp images with excellent tonal range, in very good condition; the mount is excellent (verso with some insignificant pale foxing).

Rare early photographic portrait of Scottish surgeon and theologian, James Miller.

James Miller (1812-1864) gained the licence of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1832 and was subsequently elected to the Fellowship. He was appointed Professor of Surgery at the University of Edinburgh in 1842 and went on to become surgeon‐in‐ordinary in Scotland to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Outside of medicine, Miller was heavily involved with the Church, siding with Thomas Chalmers and the Free Church party at the disruption of the Presbyterian Church in 1843, and in his later years devoted much of his energy to the temperance movement. As a writer, Miller is best known for his Principles of Surgery (1844) and Practice of Surgery (1846), along with articles on surgery in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (7th and 8th editions) and numerous pamphlets on social, religious and professorial topics.‘ (Royal College of Surgeons)

The photograph was taken by pioneer Scottish photographer John Moffat (1819-1894) in his studio at 19 Princes Street, Edinburgh, in 1856-57. (The slightly later engraved print by Daniel Pound, after Moffat’s stereoscopic photograph, is well known). We believe that the somewhat enigmatic Edinburgh Stereographic Company, whose blind stamp appears on the mount, was an alternative publishing name used by Moffat’s neighbour, the optician and stereoview seller John Lennie, whose business premises were at 46 Princes Street from 1856. Lennie was clearly a prolific seller of Moffat’s stereoscopic photographs; a number of Moffat’s images are found in some cases with the E.S.C. blind stamp, and in others with the Lennie blind stamp. We should also mention that Peter Blair (Scotland in 3D, 2018) has suggested that the mysterious owner of the E.S.C. may have been John Moffat’s brother-in-law, James Brown Knott, whose Edinburgh Photographic Rooms were also nearby at 60 Princes Street.

The reason we believe this portrait of Miller was taken around 1856 or 1857 is based on the fact that it was sourced with a group of stereoscopic photographs – clearly all by the same photographer and taken around the same time, and most with the blind stamp of John Lennie in an identical position on the mount to where the Edinburgh Stereographic Company stamp is placed – which included a  portrait of Hungarian revolutionary, statesman and orator Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894), taken in Edinburgh by John Moffat during Kossuth’s lecture tour of Scotland in 1856-57.

These stereoviews were sourced in Melbourne, and were originally acquired by a Scots-Australian named McMillan; all of the backs bear his discreet ownership signature in pencil. We believe this is likely to be Dr. Thomas Law McMillan, who received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1850 and then made his way to Australia via America, working his passage as a ship’s surgeon. He arrived in Port Phillip in February 1853 during the early phase of the first Australian gold rush. After a period seeking his fortune on the Central Victorian goldfields, McMillan returned to medicine and worked as a doctor in Geelong and Melbourne, where he became President of the Medical Society of Victoria. These facts provide a plausible explanation as to why the subjects of the stereoscopic photographs McMillan acquired – presumably on a visit home to Edinburgh in the second half of the 1850s – are, in the main, prominent Scottish figures in the fields of medicine and science (while Lajos Kossuth, of course, was a hero to every Scot with nationalist leanings). Furthermore, the Australian stereoscopic views from the same collection, similarly inscribed McMillan, date from the early 1860s and are mostly of Central Victorian goldfields subjects, a fact which also neatly dovetails with the Thomas Law McMillan hypothesis.